The Gambler’s Den

This composition technique exercise took inspiration from ‘Casino Brawl’ from Marvel Studio’s Black Panther—or more specifically, the rhythmic motif played by the trumpet at the climax of the track, which I quoted with slight paraphrasing. In addition, this piece is intended to illustrate a ‘Casino Brawl’ scene for woodwind instruments, without specifically depicting the events that happened in the actual film.

The main challenge of using the trumpet motif was emulating its fierce, fanfare-like nature and blaring sound quality through the bassoon. Thus, I made sure that the motif was not played at too low a pitch, so that it would still stand out against the higher-pitched flute and oboe. It is also played crisply to compensate for the bassoon’s lower pitch range and mellower sound quality. This motif heralds the moment the brawl breaks out within the den.


In bars 12-23, instead of being at the forefront like before, fragments of the above motif now form the rhythmic base, thus setting up a pounding tattoo as the brawl continues to rage on. The bassoon line is also restricted to four notes, which reinforces the notion of stability, and places it in contrast with the flute and oboe lines, which feature undulating contours and interchanging lines, thus portraying an image of turbulence and violence.

Finally, at bar 23, irregular note groupings and the technique of polyrhythm (combining contrasting rhythms) are used, drawing out the music and creating the impression of a deceleration. This serves as an effective transition to the ending coda, resolving the previously built-up tension and thus the brawl.

In this exercise, another technique used is that of additive rhythm, which can be seen in bars 1-7 and bars 24-31. In bars 1-7, I added two beats to each phrase whenever the bassoon motif reprises. The lengthening of phrases further builds tension and suspense, which is resolved in bar 8, where the piece reaches its first climax.


This technique also applies to the oboe line, where the rich yet acerbic-sounding oboe is paired with soft dynamics and a dissonant, chromatic melodic line. This culminates in a smooth yet reedy tone carrying slight suspense, which directs the music towards the much sharper and more aggressive climax in bar 8.


I also explored the flute technique of flutter tongue (flz.) in bars 8-11 and bars 24-32. The rapid repetition of a long high-pitched note depicts a sound of shrill alarm, thus creating a sense of agitation and tension. It is used in the first climax to complement the oboe, which has a dynamically-contoured and staccato melodic line, as well as the bassoon. In the coda, it is used to strike a contrast against the resolving oboe and bassoon lines, thus preserving the underlying tension even as the brawl dies down. Furthermore, whenever it appears, the flutter tongue enters on strong beats to strike a contrast against the irregular rhythmic groupings and polyrhythms. Ultimately, through this composition, I hoped to apply and experiment with some compositional techniques I have learnt in my MEP lessons, as well as explore the timbral possibilities of three woodwind instruments that were foreign to me. Using ‘Casino Brawl’ as a source of inspiration, I attempted to emulate and illustrate the spirit of a brawl through my own interpretation of the title, as well as by using its trumpet motif as a cornerstone of my composition, developing it to eventually create something new and unique.

Elizabeth Ho (19-E1)